When it comes to politics there are very few things that the majority of us Brits actually agree on. One of the few things there does seem to be a consensus on however is that when it comes to US politics, the Democrats are favourable to the Republicans. For example, a BBC poll carried out just before the US presidential election found that 65% of Brits would vote for the Democrat Obama, compared to just 7% who would opt for the Republican candidate Mitt Romney. There are a multitude of reasons why this is the case but differing cultures and a less than subtle media bias would undoubtedly be near the top of the list.
For most of my political life, I have been in that very small minority of Brits who generally prefer the Republicans to Democrats. I supported the widely unpopular George Bush in my mid-teens (to this day I’ve only met a handful of people here who view him positively), favoured John McCain over Obama in 2008 and grudgingly supported Romney in 2012. That said, my support for the Republicans is by no means uniform – there are some elements in the party that appear ghastly to me and I include the current frontrunner in the primaries Donald Trump in that group.
Since Trump’s ridiculous comments about banning all Muslims from the US, he has become somewhat of a hate figure here in the UK but most of the people who dislike Trump or are amused by him (which is probably a very large chunk of the population) would never have much sympathy with the Republican party in the first place. For me however Trump is doubly infuriating not just because of his insane ideas and spiteful personal attacks on the other candidates but also because he’s severely damaging the Republicans and only helping Hilary Clinton’s campaign (somebody he called “terrific” in 2012).
While Trump may be enthusing a large number of Republican primary voters, polling suggests that in a potential Trump vs Clinton presidential contest the latter would emerge as the clear winner. Not only would Donald Trump be a bad bet to beat Clinton next year, some of his opponents would likely fare a lot better. Chief among those is Marco Rubio, a 44-year old Cuban American senator from Florida. With his comparable youth, legislative experience, eagerness to compromise, passion for immigration reform and the backing of many in the Republican establishment, Rubio is the prime anti-Trump candidate. Although he has struggled so far in the primaries, he currently has a slight edge on Clinton in the polls and would almost certainly find it much easier to gain votes from the centre. In fact, other Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and even Ted Cruz would also likely fare better against Clinton than Trump could.
In fairness, Trump is not completely devoid of positive points. He is confident and self-assured at least and he has a successful background in business. However, many of his views are simply too extreme and his conduct so far has been unbecoming of a presidential candidate. In the event that he becomes president it is also unlikely that he’ll have much credibility with the wider world. When American presidents first enter the Oval Office they’re either adored by the rest of the world (like in the case of Obama) or little known (as Bush was). America can ill-afford a president who is disliked across the globe before he’s even taken the oath of office.
With Trump at the helm next November it is hard to see him doing anything but causing severe damage to the Republican brand. There is a certain negative stereotype about Republicans which all too many people buy into without question and it is that stereotype which Trump merely reinforces. As it stands the Republicans are already in need of a re-branding. If they are to have any hope of becoming a regular holder of the presidency again the party must move away from the evangelical, nativist faction represented by the likes of Trump and Cruz to the economics-focused and more moderate faction as typified by candidates like Rubio. Race is also an important factor and with the Hispanic population in America growing ever larger a reform candidate such as Rubio would be far more attractive to these voters than somebody like Trump who has done nothing but slate Mexican Americans en masse. The Southern Strategy is now hopelessly out of date.
Ultimately, my opinion on this matter means very little. I am not an American and have absolutely no say in either the primaries or the presidential election. In the end, it is up to the primary voters to decide who they want to represent them next year. However, from the eyes of this sympathetic outsider I see nothing but despair for the Republican party if it chooses Donald Trump as its next candidate for president. Perhaps a landslide victory for Clinton against Trump is what the Republicans need to force a Blair/Cameron-esque modernisation of the party but as someone who is deeply concerned about the prospect of another Democrat in the White House I’d rather they not take that chance.